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Urban Planning + Architecture

Please Advise! Are Towers a Socialist Plot?

Also tell us, Doc Steve, where’s the best place for soul searching in Vancouver?

Steve Burgess 19 Apr

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Vancouver city council is examining plans for development of the Jericho Lands, owned by a consortium including local First Nations. A committee of local residents opposed to tall towers has called this “a battle for the soul of Vancouver.”

Is it?


Soul Sister

Dear Sis,

Tough one. First you must define “the soul of Vancouver.” Once upon a time people would tell you it was the two Starbucks kitty-corner from each other at Thurlow and Robson, but that part of our civic soul has since gone to franchise heaven.

Last week on the Burrard Bridge a truck hopped the west side concrete barrier and crashed into the sidewalk. A truck smashing through a bike lane — could that be the troubled soul of Vancouver in one image?

For his part, Dr. Steve has tended to believe the soul of Vancouver was left with a half-eaten shawarma in an English Bay beach trash can and is now being fought over by two crows and a seagull. That is, if Vancouver still has a soul — it’s hard to believe it has not yet been pawned to Lucifer for the price of a detached Kitsilano bungalow and a glove box full of gas coupons.

But in fact there’s no real mystery to it — the true soul of Vancouver resides in our eternal arguments over density. It’s who we are and what we do. And this latest debate has been especially heated.

Two proposals have been submitted by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, along with the Crown corporation Canada Lands Co. Both plans feature 38-storey towers among other elements.

Opponents have coalesced under the banner of the Jericho Coalition, whose leadership includes Bill Tieleman. They have counter-proposed a development of lower-rise buildings which they say can offer the same floor space without the tall, shadow-casting towers.

These counter-calculations have puzzled no less an observer than journalist extraordinaire Frances Bula so there will be no attempted analysis here. Dr. Steve may be a doctor, but not of mathematics or urban planning (nor can Dr. Steve properly treat your chronic urinary tract infection, so please stop calling.)

However, Dr. Steve will introduce another element into this discussion which may not previously have been considered — an insidious scheme you might call Skyscraper Socialism. What is it, you ask? Nothing less than a leftist plot to create even more leftists, through the very tower-based urban planning now being proposed for Jericho.

We owe a debt of thanks to Charlie Kirk for throwing light on this plan. Kirk, the Trump-loving talk show host and founder of right-wing activist group Turning Point USA, recently claimed that high-rise towers lead to liberalism. “The higher the building, the more liberal the voter,” Kirk told a crowd at the University of Colorado Boulder on Tuesday.

“The closer to the ground you are, the more conservative you are. If you’re on the 32nd floor, renting not owning, if you’re not in the weeds and in the yard understanding what it takes to grow food and to maintain land, are you going to be more or less likely to be a conservative? The higher the building, every single study shows, they become more liberal over time.”

This revelation must come as a terrible shock to Donald Trump, who will no doubt get to work replacing Manhattan’s Trump Tower with a marble-encrusted chicken coop. Kirk does not say whether these old-fashioned, low-to-the-ground folks have to do their own gardening in order to remain conservative or if they can hire seasonal landscaping help.

How many pounds of turnips per annum does one need to produce to remain ideologically pure? And what if they use that honest connection to the good earth to grow kale? They’ll need to keep some liberals around to buy all those damn salad greens.

But Kirk could be onto something. For example, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Alabama family ran a funeral home, so all that digging and planting certainly had its effect there.

Think of it, though — what a diabolical plan Kirk has uncovered. Humanist high-rises, layers of liberalism, revolutionaries farmed in multi-tiered hothouses like so many Rhode Island Reds. Call it Antifa zoning. Vancouver must take heed. The Jericho Lands could well become host to 38-storey towers of terror.

It all makes the Jericho Lands planning that much more complex. So many questions. On approximately which floor do people start believing in progressive taxation? Will the penthouse suites be reserved for squatters? Will ground-floor conservatives be provided with sufficient parking for truck convoys? Does the horn-honking stop after 10 p.m.?

In any case, Dr. Steve is sure glad he took up centrifugal rhetoric instead of urban planning. It’s complicated. If you want to get in touch, he will be contemplating the soul of Vancouver over a Korean-style hot dog and a bubble tea.  [Tyee]

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